Rescue Ranch and Animal Control Join Forces To Save Stray Dog At Rest Stop

As we get ready to confront the realities of dog rescue in 2023, I thought we’d kick off the new year with a heartwarming story about the December rescue of a stray dog. It’s a good reminder that it takes compassion, collaboration, and community to save lives.

In March, 2022, Siskiyou Animal Control received a call about a stray dog at the Randolph E. Collier Rest Area just off Interstate Highway 5, north of Yreka. We don’t know how long she had been there, but she continued to avoid capture for months afterwards. Randi, as she would come to be known, foiled at least two successful attempts by escaping before Animal Control could get there.

At Rescue Ranch, we know how hard it is to catch a dog that doesn’t come willingly. As I wrote back in June, 2022, when it comes to rescuing elusive strays, we strive for a good outcome but, sadly, we don’t always get it. When it comes to capture, we have limited options in an open area. Chasing is rarely a good strategy and often causes more harm than good. Trapping is a better alternative, but it’s a race against the clock. And, as we will see, not all dogs fall for a trap.

Catching the elusive stray dog takes months

Although crews maintain the site beautifully, and it’s more removed from road traffic than some, the longer Randi remained at large, the more concerning her situation became. Randi needed catching. No dog is ever safe surviving on its own without human care and protection. But catching an unwilling stray takes time and resources. It’s not as easy as you might think.

In August, Siskiyou County Animal Control Shelter Manager Stephanie Hoffman contacted Eric Anderson, a Rescue Ranch volunteer who also helps out at the county shelter. She asked him to assist in Randi’s capture. Rescue Ranch Executive Director John Golay, met them at the rest area with some panels. Together they assembled a 10 x 10 foot kennel as a trap. Randi finally made an appearance after dark. She tentatively accepted  a treat from Stephanie, but then disappeared into the night.

A few days later, Eric decided to escalate “Operation Randi” by moving his motor home to the site. He set up a night vision camera and stood by, ready to spring the baited trap. Unfortunately she didn’t go for it. According to Eric, the night vision system alerted him several times but only recorded curious opossums and raccoons (shown here in the black and white still grabbed from his video).

Animal Control continued to receive alerts and Eric stopped by the rest area every chance he got, but Randi would not allow herself to be caught.

What a successful rescue looks like

On December 1, Caltrans reported that they had observed Randi bedding down in a fenced off area next to the rest stop.

Stephanie soon discovered the opening Randi was using to get in and out. She blocked the opening in the  fence, trapping the dog inside.  Then, Rescue Ranch Manager Rick Formanek, entered the enclosure and hid in the grass, waiting for Randi to show herself. Eventually, she did.

He pulled the trigger. Success! After nine months, Randi was finally caught and uninjured. She was shy and not sure of Rick, but allowed herself to be cut out of the net. The crew that does such a good job maintaining the grounds was excited to see Randi finally safe and posed with the Rescue Ranch van.

Both Eric and Rick noted Randi’s healthy weight and appearance. Concerned visitors and truckers hadn’t been able to catch her, but they fed her. Not only did she not starve, but the food probably kept her close to the relative safety of the rest stop.

Randi the rest stop stray finds a home

Eric reports that Randi connected immediately with Stephanie. Although the former stray took a little longer with him, she soon came out of her shell. He discovered that she loved people, going for walks, and, most of all, playing fetch! Soon a couple from Ashland, Oregon, expressed an interest in her. Initially they planned to foster-to-adopt but soon decided that Randi was going to be staying with them!

When I followed up with Stephanie after the holidays, she confirmed the good news. Randi the stray dog that eluded capture for nine months, has been by a loving couple who will give her the life she deserves.  We all wish it hadn’t taken so long, but thanks to the collective effort of community members, volunteers, Animal Control, and Rescue Ranch, a lonely abandoned dog has a new lease on life. We’re all the better for it.